County: Contractors must use E-Verify to vet employees

Steven Darling Jr., manager of the Brevard County Purchasing Division, hasn’t heard from any contractors complaining about the county’s new requirement that they use the federal E-Verify system to vet their employees’ legal working status before they can do a county job.

“We won’t be screening anyone. That onus will be on the contractors,” Darling said last week. “But they already screen their employees through any of various other (private sector) methods.”

The main thing the County Commission requires now, as an amendment of its procurement policy, is that contractors specifically use E-Verify to vet their employees.

Commissioners voted 4-0 on Sept. 18 to adopt the new rule. Vice Chairwoman Kristine Isnardi was absent.

Commissioner John Tobia made the motion, his third foray into immigration issues normally addressed by the federal government.

“I just think all workers should be legal,” he said. “Hiring illegal immigrants destroys business for those other companies who do work for the county.”

Tobia, of Grant-Valkaria, represents a district that includes Melbourne Beach and unincorporated areas south to the Sebastian Inlet.

E-Verify.gov describes its free Internet-based service, a product of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, as comparing information – which an employer would enter, using a prospective employee’s Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification – to records available to Homeland Security and the Social Security Administration. That comparison confirms whether the prospective employee is eligible to work in the United States.

Gov. Rick Scott required state agencies that report to him to use E-Verify in an executive order on May 27, 2011.

County Manager Frank Abbate’s staff had already vetted new employees through E-Verify, County Attorney Eden Bentley said. And those contractors getting paid by federal or state grants also used the service.

But it wasn’t in use for contractors getting county money. And that was odd to Commissioner Jim Barfield, of Merritt Island. Barfield is president of the Rockledge-based international health contractor Luke & Associates, Inc. and said that company uses E-Verify. He seconded Tobia’s motion. “It’s really absurd that Brevard County doesn’t automatically incorporate it,” he said. “The state and federal government require it. It’s the right thing to do.”

In about a month, Tobia plans to extend the E-Verify requirement to private employers – so any company that needs a county business license will have to vet its employees through E-Verify.

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